If you’ve been mourning the fact there are no more Harry Potter movies (for now), the J.K. Rowling-penned Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them should soothe that ache a bit.
It’s about the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) some 70 years before Harry’s time. Scamander arrives in New York City in 1926 with a magical suitcase that accidentally releases creatures among the unsuspecting no-majs (American Muggles), which threatens to reveal the secret wizarding world.
Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), a former and current member, respectively, of the Magical Congress of the United States of America, pursue Scamander to make sure he recaptures his creatures and keeps his suitcase shut. But soon they realize a much greater danger looms and things turn dark.
I know, I’m vague about the plot, but does it matter? If you love everything Potter related, you’ll see this movie even if it’s about giant vats of mythical cheese. If you don’t, you’ve probably stopped reading already.
For those of you still here (thanks!), I think the movie is entertaining enough, though it has its clunky bits. Redmayne has done his shy looking-out-from-behind-his-hair act before—see: The Danish Girl—but he is a skilled actor who engenders good will. I hope Scamander becomes more confident as the series progresses.
Waterson is appealing as the determined Tina, who can’t be upstaged even when her blond bombshell Queenie shows up. Alison Sudol has a star-making role in the mind-reading Queenie; she’s sexy but also kind and sweet. Dan Fogler, as a man who just wants to open a bakery but gets caught up in magical shenanigans, elicits the most laughs with his reaction shots.
Harry, Hermione, and Ron might be missed at first, but these adults hold our attention, too. Oh, there’s also a super creepy kid named Chastity played by Faith Wood-Blagrove, and it’s hard to believe this is her screen debut.
Despite being a diehard fan of the HP books, I never thought the movies were great so it’s hard to say whether Fantastic Beasts is better or worse. It’s about a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. Where it lags are scenes depicting the antics of the CGI’d creatures or people gaping at them.
For me, the magic lies in the struggles of the humans, both wizards and no-majs. And though these events take place 90 years ago, the themes of oppression, racism, and obtaining power through fear mongering are absolutely relevant today.
Nerd verdict: Engaging Beasts
Photos: Warner Bros.